Middlebury

Global role of Islam in politics to be topic of symposium Oct. 4-6

September 18, 2007

"When, in a society, the sovereignty belongs to God alone, expressed in its obedience to the Divine Law, only then is every person in that society free from servitude to others, and only then does he taste true freedom."

- Sayyid Qutb, leading intellectual of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, executed in 1966

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. ? The 2007 Nicholas R. Clifford Symposium, titled "Islam and Politics in a Globalizing World," will take place at Middlebury College on Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 4-6. The symposium will feature prominent scholars of Islam and politics and events include a lecture, panel discussions, a dance performance and a film. Speakers will address several key issues and discuss the implications for the future of political Islam in an increasingly interconnected world. All events are free and open to the public.

Oxford University Professor and Islamic studies scholar James Piscatori will deliver the symposium's keynote lecture titled "Iraq and the Future of Political Islam" on Thursday, Oct. 4, at 8 p.m. Piscatori, a senior scholar at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and a professor at Oxford's Wadham College, will discuss the role of Islam in the current Iraqi conflict and throughout the Islamic world. Piscatori is a leading scholar in the debate on Islam and Islamic politics and has edited and authored numerous books and journals that have helped shape the emerging discourse on contemporary Islamic politics and the relationship between Muslim communities and the West.

Piscatori's most recent book, "Monarchies and Nations: Globalisation and Identity in the Arab States of the Gulf" (2005), is an interdisciplinary approach to the issue of identity in the Arab Gulf states, in which the transnational flows of wealth and the large migrant worker community play a part.
Piscatori has served as acting director for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University; as a professor at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth; and as an adjunct scholar at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding in Detroit, Mich. He is currently working on a research project funded through the Economic and Social Research Council on Connection and Imagery: Transnational Culture-Flows and the Arab Gulf.

The Middlebury College Islamic Society members will initiate the panel discussions on Thursday, Oct. 4, at 4:30 p.m., with a roundtable on the religious experience of Muslims, titled "What it Means to be a Muslim." They will be joined by Mahmoud Hayat, former president of the Islamic Society of Vermont.

On Friday afternoon, Oct. 5, at 4 p.m., Yale University Assistant Professor of Political Science Andrew March and Cornell University Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Politics David Patel will join Piscatori on a panel addressing the question "Why Does Islam Become Politicized?"

March is a scholar of Islamic ethics and his dissertation, "Islamic Doctrines of Citizenship in Liberal Democracies," won the 2006 Aaron Wildavsky Award for Best Dissertation in Religion and Politics from the American Political Science Association. His dissertation will be published in book form by Oxford University Press in 2008.

Patel's research combines game theory and ethnography to examine the tendency of Islamic institutions and symbols to motivate political coordination and enhance social solidarity. In 2003, he conducted field studies in Iraq to better understand how mosques and clerical organizations affect the supply of local provisions and the coordination of national politics.

The final panel on Saturday, Oct. 6, at 10:30 a.m. will discuss "Islam, Human Rights and Democracy." Participants include Amr Hamzawy, senior associate of the Democracy and Rule of Law Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Princeton University Instructor in Near Eastern Studies Mirjam Künkler; and Naz Modirzadeh, a senior associate at the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Hamzawy is a noted Egyptian political scientist who previously taught at Cairo University and the Free University of Berlin. His research interests include the changing dynamics of political participation in the Arab world and the role of Islamist opposition groups in Arab politics, with special attention both to Egypt and the gulf countries. His latest book is "Human Rights in the Arab World: Independent Voices" (2006).

Künkler is an expert on Islamic politics in Indonesia and Iran. She is a former deputy director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, Toleration and Religion at Columbia University.
Modirzadeh previously worked for Human Rights Watch and served as director of the International Human Rights Law Program at the American University in Cairo. Her work focuses primarily on the intersections between Islamic law and human rights.

On Saturday, Oct. 6, at 1:30 p.m., a modern dance performance by Middlebury College Artist-in-Residence Leyya Tawil will take place in the Dance Theatre of the Center for the Arts, located on South Main Street (Route 30). Tawil, of Syrian-Palestinian descent, will perform her solo, "Landmine/Map of the World," followed by an improvised work with violinist and Palestinian-American Mike Khoury. In a follow-up discussion, Tawil will address the role of contemporary dance in creating and breaking illusions about Middle Eastern women and culture and Khoury will discuss the Arab avant-garde in music. 

Later that afternoon and evening, the critically acclaimed Afghan film "Osama" (2003) will conclude the symposium with screenings at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. in Dana Auditorium, located in Sunderland Language Center on College Street (Route 125). The first Afghan film shot since the fall of the Taliban, "Osama" won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film of 2003. Director Siddiq Barmak portrays a young girl and her mother after they lose their jobs under the Taliban. With no men to support them and harsh rules restricting women, the girl disguises herself as a boy named Osama in order to earn a living. The afternoon screening of "Osama" will include an introduction by Middlebury College Assistant Professor of Political Science Quinn Mecham. The film is co-sponsored by the Hirschfield International Film Series. 

The Nicholas R. Clifford Symposium was established by the Middlebury College board of trustees in 1993 to honor the distinguished career of Middlebury College Professor Emeritus Nicholas R. Clifford. He was a member of the Middlebury College history department from 1966 through 1993, and served as vice president for academic affairs on three occasions - from 1979-1985, in 1989 and from 1991-1993. Clifford is a former trustee, and was a co-chair of the college's Bicentennial celebration committee.

For more information, contact Assistant Director of the Rohatyn Center for International Affairs Charlotte Tate at tate@middlebury.edu or 802-443-5795.

To follow is a schedule of symposium events:

2007 Clifford Symposium
Islam and Politics in a Globalizing World Oct. 4-6

Thursday, Oct. 4
4:30 p.m.     Panel Discussion

"What it means to be a Muslim"
Chair: Middlebury College Instructor in Religion Justin Stearns
Panelists: Middlebury College Islamic Society members
Robert A. Jones '59 House, located on Hillcrest Road off College Street (Route 125)

8 p.m.     Keynote Lecture
"Iraq and the Future of Political Islam"
James Piscatori, Oxford University Professor and Senior Scholar at the Centre for Islamic Studies
Robert A. Jones '59 House, located on Hillcrest Road off College Street (Route 125)

Friday, Oct. 5
4 p.m.    Panel Discussion
"Why Does Islam Become Politicized?"
Chair: Middlebury College Director of the Rohatyn Center for International Affairs and Professor of Political Science Allison Stanger
Panelists: Andrew March, Yale University Assistant Professor of Political Science; David Patel, Cornell University Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern politics; James Piscatori, Oxford University Professor and Senior Scholar at the Centre for Islamic Studies
Robert A. Jones '59 House, located on Hillcrest Road off College Street (Route 125)

Saturday, Oct. 6
10:30 a.m.    Panel Discussion
"Islam, Human Rights and Democracy"
Chair: Middlebury College Assistant Professor of Political Science Quinn Mecham
Panelists: Amr Hamzawy, Senior Associate of the Democracy and Rule of Law Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Mirjam Künkler, Princeton University Instructor in Near Eastern Studies; Naz Modirzadeh, Senior Associate at the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research, Harvard School of Public Health
Robert A. Jones '59 House, located on Hillcrest Road off College Street (Route 125)

1:30 p.m.    Dance Performance  
Middlebury College Artist-in-Residence Leyya Tawil, of Syrian-Palestinian descent, will perform her solo, "Landmine/Map of the World," followed by an improvised work with violinist and Palestinian-American Mike Khoury. In a follow-up discussion, Tawil will address the role of contemporary dance in creating and breaking illusions about Middle Eastern women and culture and Khoury will discuss the Arab avant-garde in music.  Dance Theater in the Center for the Arts, located on South Main Street (Route 30)

3 p.m. &  8 p.m.    Film Screening
"Osama"
The first Afghan film shot since the fall of the Taliban, "Osama" won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film of 2003. Director Siddiq Barmak portrays a young girl and her mother after they lose their jobs under the Taliban. With no men to support them and harsh rules restricting women, the girl disguises herself as a boy named Osama in order to earn a living. Middlebury College Assistant Professor of Political Science Quinn Mecham will provide an introduction to the 3 p.m. screening. Co-sponsored by the Hirschfield International Film Series.
Dana Auditorium in Sunderland Language Center, located on Main Street (Route 125)

The lecture, panel discussions, dance performance and film screening are all free and open to the public. For more information, contact Charlotte Tate, assistant director of the Middlebury College Rohatyn Center for International Affairs, at tate@middlebury.edu or (802) 443-5795.